The House Girl alternates between two time periods and two women: Josephine, a seventeen-year-old house slave on a Virginia tobacco farm, and Lina, a modern-day lawyer in New York City. Their stories converge when Lina must find descendants of slaves to serve as plaintiffs in a lawsuit for slave labor reparations. Josephine’s days are filled with caring for her ailing mistress, Lu Anne Bell, who fancies herself an artist but often grows too tired to finish her paintings — instead asking Josephine to complete them. Josephine’s creations are beautiful and will garner tremendous fame in the future, but only under Lu Anne’s name. The House Girl poses complex questions about art, reparations, and the legacy of slavery.
“Who was she to think of escape? Who was she to imagine a world beyond Bell Creek? You foolish girl. Standing on the porch, the sharp smell of a distant fire, her dress stiff with dust and damp, the groan of old wood as Missus Lu leaned the rocker forward and back, forward and back, and Josephine felt as though roots had long ago forged themselves beneath her, securing her forever to this small piece of earth, and it was not within her power to release them.”
Tara Conklin was born on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and now lives in Seattle. Like her character Lina, Conklin has worked as a litigator for a corporate law firm in New York and London. The House Girl is her first novel.
Length: 365 pages
Set in: Virginia and New York, United States
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